SAN FRANCISCO --

Micron Technology

(MU) - Get Report

, the first of the major chipmakers to report results for the current quarter, reported earnings Wednesday near the top end of the range of estimates, which could be a positive for the technology sector on Thursday.

After the close, Micron reported second-quarter earnings of 8 cents a share, which compares to the break-even estimate from

First Call

. It also was near the high end of the range of

forecasts that went from a loss of 17 cents a share to a profit of 10 cents a share. Before the announcement, Micron closed 1 3/8 higher, or 3%, at 52.

Micron reported net sales of $1 billion, compared with $763 million for the same quarter last year. Of the revenue, $697 million came from semiconductor memory products, compared with $283 million for the same period last year. Gross margin on semiconductor operations was 32% in the second quarter compared with 9% for the first quarter.

Layoffs and a Downgrade

America Online

(AOL)

was in the news on a number of fronts. The company revealed some details of its restructuring following its integration of

Netscape

, which will include layoffs of between 700 and 1,000 workers between the two companies.

In advance of the meeting, AOL was downgraded by

Brown Brothers Harriman

to neutral from buy based on the valuation of the stock versus earnings. It closed 3 7/8 points lower, or 3.2%, at 117 1/8.

Late Rally for Techs

Technology stocks rallied in the last hour of trading, led by industry bellwethers

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

and

Dell

.

(DELL) - Get Report

. There were reports that Microsoft was in talks to settle its ongoing lawsuit with the government, though representatives from one state said the terms were not acceptable. Microsoft closed 4 11/16 higher, or 3%, at 171 1/4. Intel closed 4 11/16 higher, or 4%, at 119 1/4, while Dell recovered from recent weakness to close 2 13/16 higher, or 8%, at 38 1/2.

Also among the day's winners was

Bottomline Technologies

(EPAY) - Get Report

, which soared after it announced that

Arthur Anderson

would be using Bottomline's electronic payment software for electronic commerce services. Bottomline closed up 19, or 36%, at 71 1/2.

Largest point gainer on the Nasdaq was

MiningCo.com

(MINE)

. In its first day of trading, the provider of Internet news, information and entertainment services soared to a high of 62 1/4 after being priced at 25 Tuesday. It finished the day up 22 1/2, or 90%, at 47 1/2, which was below the 52 level where it began trading.